The hurricane in Hong Kong

你 好 from Hong Kong, where Typhoon Mangkhut, the world’s most powerful storm this year, is presently bearing down on the city with powerful winds and rains.

I’m holed up in my room on the 26th floor of the lovely Lan Kwai Fong Hotel, with a stockpile of snacks (gingko nuts, dried sweet potatoes and fish skin crisps; 7-Eleven is great here!), tea and a copy of the South China Morning Post.

The city seems well prepared. The windows of every storefront I passed in Central Hong Kong, the densely-populated business hub on the city’s eponymous island, were secured with X’s of masking tape last night. Experts I spoke to said Hong Kong rarely loses power, since most of the electrical lines are buried underground for this exact reason. Atop Victoria Peak, the breathtakingly scenic mountain overlook, a uniformed guide hurried people along yesterday as the sun sank toward China, shouting in English, Cantonese and Korean, “Typhoon is coming. Take your pictures and hurry, hurry.”

The Philippines got it much worse. At least 16 people died as the winds and floodwaters of what was then a “super typhoon” hammered the northern island of Luzon. In Taiwan, one woman was even swept out to sea.

By around noon today, the Hong Kong Observatory upgraded the typhoon to a Signal No. 10, indicating it’s now a full-blown hurricane. The wind is fierce, whipping newspapers through the air. At 1:24 p.m., I heard emergency vehicle sirens wailing.

Call it the other woman (then have an overdue conversation about the sexism behind storm names). Mangkhut, the Thai word for a mangosteen fruit, comes as Hurricane Florence drenches the Carolinas. At least 11 people are dead. My colleague Chris D’Angelo is in North Carolina, where he just published a dispatch from the town of Kinston, where flooding is becoming the new normal.

It’s difficult for scientists to directly link powerful storms to rising global temperatures on either side of the planet. But a team of researchers earlier this week found that Florence would likely dump half as much rain if sea surface and atmospheric temperatures weren’t already where they are from anthropogenic warming. Studies like that are uncommon, as the field climate scientists and meteorologists call “attribution science” is a nascent.

“It takes several months to crush the numbers to determine the amount by which climate change enhanced or amplified any given storm,” Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist and professor at Texas Tech University, told me of Mangkhut. “However, we do know that, on average, climate change is making storms stronger, causing them to intensify faster, increasing the amount of rainfall associated with a given storm, and even making them move more slowly.”

You can read my coverage of the storm here.


Quotable Menschen

“China will not hesitate to inflict pain upon the U.S.”

-- Chen Wenling, chief economist at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, a Beijing-based policy group, on why, despite President Trump’s insistence that China is preparing to cave, the trade war could go on for a long time.

“The U.S. government indeed is irresponsible, so if we can use this rhetoric why don’t we?”

-- Hu Xijin, the controversial editor of the hawkish tabloid Global Times, speaking about how the Trump administration’s abandonment of climate diplomacy weakens the U.S. standing in trade talks.

“This is an ideological competition. It’s a systematic competition. It’s a competition of social systems.”

-- Teng Jianqun, director of American studies at the China Institute of International Studies, outlining his view of Trump’s real motivations for implementing tariffs on Chinese goods.

Rebecca Leber@rebleber

what is the german word for the guilt one feels while hustling for climate change news on the west coast when a hurricane is about to batter the east coast

September 12, 2018
Zach Carter@zachdcarter

In short: the machine swept the top of the ticket and got demolished downballot. The left's best opportunities seem to be against lesser-known candidates.

September 14, 2018
Alexander Kaufman@AlexCKaufman

“All the buses and taxis are electric in Shenzhen. Same in New York?”

“Hahaha, uh, no.”

“You’re still using gas?!”

September 15, 2018


🗳  🗳 🗳

IDC U later. Democratic insurgents defeated six of the eight members of the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group of conservative Democrats in the New York State Senate who caucused with the Republicans, giving the GOP a majority in the upper house.

Among them is Alessandra Biaggi, who has staked out a climate platform that includes banning plastic bags, fining polluters and passing legislation to require 100 percent renewable energy in New York by 2050.

🗳  🗳 🗳

That’s not even the most ambitious climate policy of the bunch. Brooklyn socialist Julia Salazar -- who overcame recent controversies to defeat 17-year incumbent Sen. Martin Dilan (not an IDC member, but loathed by progressives for accepting boatloads of real estate money) -- proposed one of the most ambitious climate platforms in the country, with a target of 100 percent renewable energy in the state by 2035.

📈  📈 📈

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced a bill on Friday to require public companies to disclose the risks climate change poses to their businesses. Dubbed the Climate Risk Disclosure Act, it would force publicly-traded firms to tell investors how their valuation would change under worst-case and best-case warming scenarios.

Climate change could be “an economic opportunity if we act boldly and decisively,” Warren said. “But if we don’t, we will see a global catastrophe that will put the 2008 crisis to shame.”

🍚  🍚 🍚

Here’s a steamy one. Rice farming could emit up to twice as much planet-warming gas as previously thought, according to a study published this week in the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research found that intermittently flooded paddies emit 45 times more nitrous oxide, a long-lived greenhouse gas, as compared to the maximum from continuously flooded farms that mostly emit methane.

🚗  🚗 🚗

China’s answer to Tesla went public. Electric carmaker Nio raised over $1 billion on the New York Stock Exchange this week in an initial public offering TechCrunch called “a bumpy start.”

The so-called “new energy vehicle” market is booming in China. On Thursday, stories about electric automakers filled nearly the entire business section of the state-controlled newspaper China Daily. Sales of electric vehicles are roughly double those of the United States.


Recommendations

First, this song.

  • Adam Behsudi, the Politico trade reporter on this fellowship with me, wrote a clear, succinct overview of how Chinese officials we’ve spoken to see the trade war.

  • Mary Childs, the Barron’s writer who’s proved herself to be a talented charmer of local officials here in China, fleshed out the interview we did with Chen Wenling, including more context on the geopolitics of Taiwan.

  • The great Kate Aronoff wrote a deeply disturbing piece for The Appeal on how the politics of leaving prisoners behind during hurricane evacuations.

  • Chris D’Angelo’s first stop in North Carolina was to Fair Bluff, a town still recovering from Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and his dispatch and the photos with it are worth bookmarking.

  • Ben Walsh interviewed economist Stephanie Kelton, the so-called “deficit owl” whose modern monetary theory is forcing policymaker to rethink neoliberal orthodoxies on government spending.

  • My last recommendation is to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which should visit the Beijing subway. It’s clean, the trains run every few minutes so no one rushes or holds the doors, and all the stations are evenly air conditioned. Can you even imagine!

The regularly-scheduled programming of artist Q&As on climate change should resume next week. For now, I’ll leave you with this short video of me playing a guzheng.

Thanks for reading This Anthropogenic Life. If you like what you read, please forward it to your friends, family, coworkers and people you’re messaging on hook-up apps. It’s free! You can reach me as always at alexanderckaufman@gmail.com.